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In Sickness And In Health
I know some men who would rather watch a week's worth of Oprah Winfrey than go golfing with their wives. I also know some women that would rather attend Monster Truck extravaganzas than go golfing with their husbands.

Men can be jerks and women can be, shall we say frustrating. You don't have to be Dr. Laura [an American TV psychiatrist] to realize that the words 'marital' and 'discord' go together like 'love' and 'marriage.' This becomes more than evident when viewing the behavior of couples on the golf course (the ones that risk it all to play golf together anyway).

I must admit on one occasion I noticed a couple enjoying themselves on the course - but then the police arrested them for public indecency. Well okay, maybe I have seen couples who can co-exist in a state of armed truce for 18 holes. On one occasion my wife and I played golf with another couple and we all managed to drive back to our place without having to bandage flesh wounds. It was an experience I'll be proud of forever (those bruises were from falling down the stairs).

Of course, I distinctly remember another occasion where the outcome was much different. Some raging fool convinced me that I needed to play in a husband/wife best ball tournament at his club. (Why they call it 'Husband/Wife Best Ball Tournament' is beyond me. A more fitting name would be 'The Husband/Wife Take-The-Wife's-Ball-Every-Now-And-Then-So-She-Doesn't-Claw-And-Scratch-You-To-Death-Tournament.')

At any rate, at the time my wife was just learning to play an explosion shot. In order to give herself some practice in this area, I think, she quite masterfully played a beautiful skull-shank hybrid kind of shot (extremely difficult to execute) that ricocheted off a tree and ended up in a bunker.

'No problem, hon,' I said, 'we went over this the other day - you know what to do in the sand.' Well, as it turned out, she forgot in a fairly extravagant way. In a matter of seconds my normally calm, composed wife turned into an axe murderer. She single-handedly turned the tranquil scene around the fifth green into a raging out-of-control middle east sand storm. And, to make a long story short, I was given all the blame and the car ride home was completely silent - except for the sound of both of us rigorously cleaning sand from our ears.

I'm not exactly sure what it is about golf that makes it difficult for husbands and wives to get along while playing. I was recently informed about a fellow who nailed his wife with a ball from 20 feet away. Apparently the impact sent her flying into the pond. Needless to say, she didn't take it very well. I can certainly see how something like that would be grounds for a little tension. However, barring attempted murder, you'd think keeping the peace with your spouse wouldn't be all that difficult.

My wife and I have devised four rules that help combat marital discord on the course. Perhaps it will help you as well.

Rule 1 - Laughing At Your Spouse Is Not Allowed

While laughing at the misfortunes of your beer-swilling buddies is always quite enjoyable, your spouse should not be on the receiving end. If you must enjoy a chuckle (or two) at their expense, hit one in the woods and express your merriment in private. Remember, a lost ball penalty is a lot less expensive than a divorce settlement.

Rule 2 - Blurting Out Any Advice Whatsoever Is A Recipe For Divorce

The only place where delivering spousal recommendations is dicier is in bed. It's a well-known fact that your spouse would rather listen to Ronald McDonald give instruction than you.

Rule 3 - Bring A Neutral Third Party onto the Course with You

Ministers, shrinks, marriage counselors, or personal bodyguards can all be used to keep the blows to a minimum on the golf course. Failing access to any of these, always play with others in a threesome or foursome. There's nothing like having to maintain public decorum to keep a tight-lipped smile on both your faces.

Rule 4 - When Too Much Sand Starts Flying, Do The Prudent Thing - run
Ultimately, despite having numerous reconciliatory type strategies at your disposal, golfing with your spouse can turn into all out warfare. Unfortunately, there may be instances where simply dropping your golf bag and running in the opposite direction (until your feet are unable to move you any further) is your only hope to get out of the situation alive.

Golfing with your spouse shouldn't develop into a he said/she said in front of Judge Wapner. Getting along with somebody who snores in bed is difficult enough. However, getting along with a spouse who offers free advice every time you cold top-it is worse. When playing the great game of golf together, remember the words you said back when you didn't realize your partner's idea of a good time was watching 'Survivor' with a beer resting on the spare tire. The words of course were, 'In sickness and in health, in bed and in golf.' You remember, don't you?

Andrew Penner is a golf pro and freelance writer currently living alone in Canada

[Ed's note. The only picture we could find to illustrate men and women together on the golf course is the one we've used, of Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and David Duval at the so-called 'Battle of Bighorn' last year. To the best of our knowledge they're all still talking to each other but that's probably because they're not married.]

©    11 - FEBRUARY 2002

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